In June this year, I’ll be celebrating a decade of running Freelance Mum. That’s 10 years of supporting fellow mums in business. 10 years of building a business community. And what a privilege it has been for the last 10 years, to share the journey with so many amazing women in business (who just happen to be mums).
So why is it so important to connect with like-minded mums in business. And what does motherhood have to do with it anyway?
Here’s some networking gems I’ve learnt along the way and why they can help you and your business.
1. The Power of Community
Never underestimate the power of a community. As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, well that can be applied tenfold, when it comes to running your business.
Who else ‘gets it’ when your child gets sick AND you have a deadline (that only you can deliver). Both are important. Both need you. Or what about when you win a new client and you’re bursting to share the news? Or quite simply, you can’t fathom how to add a new ‘thingie’ to a reel?
Being part of a supportive community, with people who ‘get it’ – fellow mums in business, is important. Sharing those experiences, understanding those challenges creates a unique bond. These are the people who are there when you need them. You can be unapologetically you. And it’s by building those relationships, fostering a sense of understanding and encouraging each other, that you build each other up.
2. Strategies for Effective Networking
Networking is far more than turning up to an event and passing business cards. It’s moved on a lot in the last 10 years (and I’d like to think Freelance Mum has been a part of that). It’s about finding the events that work for you.
I like to think of the word ‘network’, rather than ‘networking’ – I can visualise a web which is interconnected and supporting a system. It’s there when you need it, with the members being the structure providing the support. The web being the bit between them – the relationships.
It’s only by turning up at the events and building those relationships, that you start gain the real value of your network. So it’s important you invest your time and money wisely and find the right one for you.
There’s a brilliant saying, ‘It’s not who is in the room, but through the room’ – in other words, who people are connected to and can introduce you to. Having a good solid relationship with people, makes them far more likely to recommend you to others.
Think of networking as part of your overarching marketing strategy, rather than expecting a direct sale.
At Freelance Mum, we focus on community and really building those relationships, to keep supporting you and your business. We want to see all aspects thrive – after all, you’re a ‘whole person’, not just the face of your business.
3. Follow Up Meetings
Really this is just a natural follow on from attending the networking event itself, at more formal networking, it might be called ‘booking your 1:1’. Call it what you like, in essence, it all boils down to the same thing – get to know and support other attendees, regardless of what networking event you have attended. Grabbed their business card? Great – drop them a line and say how good it was to connect. Strike while the iron is hot, as chances are, you’ll be looking at a business card a few weeks down the line and wondering who it belonged to!
Some networking events will be one offs, others are memberships. The joy of going to membership events, such as Freelance Mum, you know you know already have shared values. These are your people. Get to know them. Have a coffee, or just ping them a quick message. It doesn’t matter what it looks like to you, it’s about making it work.
4. Attending child-friendly networking events
If you’ve not been to a child-friendly networking event, you’re probably wondering what it actually looks like. And does it matter if your child is older or at school? If you’re coming with your child, you don’t want to be distracted by their needs, while trying to have a conversation. Likewise, if you don’t have little people with you, you don’t want to feel like you’re ‘in the wrong place’ if you’re surrounded by babies.
At Freelance Mum we get that. Children are 100% welcome, but you don’t have to ‘borrow a baby’ to legitimise attending! Children are just part of the mix. Simple. Mums without children, often help out and netwalks go at the speed of the slowest toddler. Sometimes there are no children at all. Sometimes there are just one or two. Either way, it’s no major biggie.
All netwalks are designed with babies in mind, terrain and safety is always taken into consideration and there’s always a ‘pitstop’ for a cuppa.
Why am I telling you this? Because experience tells me, it’s important to create events in space that has family-friendly venues, flexible schedules, and activities that accommodate both networking and childcare. And to do it in such a ‘seemingly effortless way’ that it feels relaxed, effective and natural.
And if you’re not sure – ask. Email ahead of a meeting, so you know what to expect. To be fair, that goes for any networking event, not just child-friendly ones. Having an idea of the format and what to expect, is always helpful when preparing.
5. Digital Networking for Busy Mums
Nothing beats in person events and seeing people in actual real life. We knew it already, then Covid served us a belter and reminded us. But what Covid also did, was reinforce digital networking. It was there already, but it wasn’t enforced yet.
Connecting on line is great way to keep building relationships – especially if you’re juggling business around motherhood. Every minute is vital! It’s a great way to network in a smart and effective way. No need to worry about travel/parking/directions. It’s smart and effective.
Geography has no boundaries, when it comes to going online – it’s a great way to expand your network (and build your empire!).
So if you’re looking to find a network, that works well for you and your business, having a balance between online and in person, provides a really nice mix and solution.
Finally, if you’re running your own business, it’s far more than ‘just paying the bills’ – but about connecting with your passion and purpose. So make sure you find the network that works for you. You know the ones, the ones you find yourself thinking about, long after you leave the room.